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By: Aadya Malvika Ray

Corona virus, or COVID-19, is now a household name, and everyone across the various stratas of society and economy is aware of this pandemic. COVID-19 has changed our lives forever – for the better and for the worse.

On one hand, it has put our lives at great risk, but on the other, it has bought a new life into our families. It has forced us to stop, to take a break, and to consider that maybe this is nature's way of telling us to slow down. For many of us, the COVID-19 lockdown is a blessing. No schools means saving a lot of travel time, and we are now studying from the comfort of our homes. We get more time to spend with our families, and our elders have more time for us. This is a ‘new normal’ that we can certainly get used to. There are moments of fear when we hear the statistics and see the gruesome conditions on the television, but it passes and does not stop us from enjoying the rest of our day.

If you too have a similar story to tell, then let me tell you that we are the privileged few and a minority. The rest of our country is suffering.

India is a predominantly an agrarian society; there are hundreds of thousands working as daily wage labourers in urban areas. It is these people who are bearing the brunt of the lockdown. Recent research by the World Bank shows that, at the very least, whatever gains India achieved in lifting people out of poverty over the last three years was lost in two months of lockdown. How many people who managed to crawl above the poverty line after toiling blood and tears for years are now back under it – we just don’t know. Labourers who were earning about Rs.200-300 a day – barely managing the basic essential needs of the family – with the lockdown, they are no longer earning. In search of jobs these daily labourers are forced to walk or cycle hundreds of kilometers under harrowing conditions so that they can reach their villages in time to work on fields during the harvesting season and earn some money.

For those residing in urban slums, things are not much different. There are large families staying in 1-2 rooms in unauthorized colonies and slums; these are settlements where separating the entrance door of two houses is sometimes difficult given their proximity, and where nothing other than two-wheelers can navigate. Following social distancing norms is not an option for these people nor do they have an option to sit at home without work for more than a few days. They have to look for avenues to put two square meals on the table for their families, and with all activities closed, and informal jobs available to women and men as house-helps no longer there, these workers and their families are suffering. They are not only financially in doldrums, but emotionally under extreme stress.

It is time that the privileged children reach out and do something for our countrymen who are not so privileged. There is so much we can do and, the best part is, we can do this from within inside the comfort of our homes.Masks for India is a non profit student organisation providing support to the poor families by providing them with food, soaps, sanitizers, masks, and so on. We can provide a boost to such organizations by visiting their website and making donations in kind or cash so that they can continue their good work. This may only be a small step for us, but for those who are not-so-privileged, this will be a giant leap for their survival in the future.

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